Everyone associated with the Christopher High girls varsity track and field team knew the challenge of warding off a deep, experienced North Monterey County squad at the Monterey Bay League Finals would be daunting but doable at the same time.
Despite the Cougars posting a 6-0 regular season MBL dual meet record, a league title still hung in the balance. And the only way to have it swing in the CHS direction was to out-point the Condors.
Throughout the six-hour meet, as soon as score updates were available, head coach Jeff Myers spread the word to his competing athletes, all scattered in different events Friday at Watsonville High.
“We are doing everything we can,” Myers said in passing. “The kids are fighting for everything.”
It was a thrilling, neck-and-neck chase between the Cougars and defending champion Condors – gain ground, give ground, speculation and predictions.
“With a meet like this anything can happen,” Myers said.
As dusk approached and the temperature dropped to the mid-50s, with two events remaining – the 4×400-meter relay and the high jump – CHS, scrapping together as many points as possible, trailed NMC by a slim 120-115 margin. The Condors captured second in the mile-relay, while CHS placed third. That result left the score 128-121 with only the high jump to score.
An anxious crowd gathered around a poorly lit corner of the stadium for the high jump proceedings. The group, much like a golf gallery, hushed talkative spectators as their jumper prepared. NMC’s Taylor Blaha cleared 5 feet for the win, and in the end, the Condors edged the Cougars 140-134 for the team title.
North County’s boys team also secured the team championship.
Spots into Saturday’s Central Coast Section Trials were also up for grabs. Relay teams and individuals needed to place in the top-two to earn an automatic berth.
Ally Foster will be in four events in those CCS Trials scheduled for May 19 at Gilroy High. The freshman, who began the year as a jumping specialist, hit the hurdle scene late in the season and has quickly adapted into a star role. Foster won league titles in the 100 hurdles (16.86 seconds), 300 hurdles (48.06) and the triple jump (33-feet, 4 inches.) She also placed second in the long jump (15-10).
“Hurdles surprised me,” Foster said. “It just kind of happened. Today was just amazing. I’m so happy to be a freshman and going to CCS in all my events. It’s crazy. I’m still overwhelmed.”
The Cougars girls 4×100 relay team – Olivia Baxter, Cailin McCarry, Haylee Peterson and Carly McPolin – took second with a season-best 51.53 second race.
“Olivia had a great start, Cailin built a good lead and we had good passes throughout,” said Peterson, one of a few seniors on the team.
“We all just wanted to do our part,” McCarry added.
Peterson will also be in the 100 hurdles at the CCS semifinals after placing second Friday. Claudia Ferreira placed third in that race for a CHS sweep. Also into sectionals is Lina Craighill in the high jump. Craighill, a sophomore, placed second Friday. It will be her second appearance at CCS. This one comes after offseason back surgery.
Marty Ettema, taking second (15.66), qualified for sectionals in the 110 hurdles.
Though only the top-two move on, valuable points (awarded to the top-six finishers) as well as podium-worthy performances were obtained by many others. Rachel Allen finished third in both the 1600 and 3200, and Baxter was third in the 200. Monique Esparza placed third in the 800 and fourth in the 400, McPolin and Baxter crossed in third and fourth, respectively, in the 100 and Natalia Gutierrez was fourth in the 800 and the high jump.
• Junior varsity league champion: Mackenzie Robinson (high jump.)
The regular season closed on a sour note, but 24 hours later, the Christopher High baseball team received news of reprieve.
Monte Vista Christian dashed the Cougars’ Monterey Bay League championship aspirations and clinched the crown for itself with a 4-1 victory Friday in Watsonville.
The Cougars, who began the week in a tie for first place only to lose their final two games of the regular season, welcomed new life Saturday, earning the program’s first postseason berth. CHS (19-8) landed as the No. 9 seed in Central Coast Section Division II bracket and will take on No. 8 Leland on the road at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
“It doesn’t matter if you were in first place or third place, it’s a whole new season,” CHS manager Ryan Dequin said after Friday’s loss to the Mustangs. “That other team on the field is playing for its life as well. It’s a one-game season. One at a time.”
The one directly ahead of the Cougars is the aforementioned Chargers (15-11), who finished third in the Blossom Valley Athletic League Mount Hamilton Division behind Pioneer and Willow Glen – the league champion. Willow Glen (21-6) is the No. 1 seed in the bracket and the likely opponent for the Cougars should they defeat Leland on Thursday and the Rams scoot by No. 16 Woodside.
“I think we got our guys to buy into our system and I have no fear, no worries that they are not going to get it done,” Dequin said.
The Cougars will enter postseason play on a two-game losing streak – the first such skid since a three-game slide in February. CHS entered the home stretch of the MBL season three victories shy of a share of the MBL crown. After an 8-1 win against North Monterey County, Monterey and MVC stood in front of CHS and its banner.
A 4-3 loss to the Toreadors on Wednesday didn’t dissolve championship plans completely – only setting the stage for a must win versus the Mustangs on Friday to slice the title three ways.
The Cougars (18-9 overall, 14-4 MBL) spotted the Mustangs a 2-0 advantage after the first frame. Mario Talamante, on in relief, kept the Cougars in striking distance after taking over for starter Brandon Irby two outs into the ball game.
Talamante tossed 4.1 innings of scoreless ball before handing the duties over to Travis Hill in the sixth.
“Taz did an awesome job,” Dequin said. “He showed he was ready and did a great job.”
Christopher got one run back in the top of the fourth on a Ryan Fredricks RBI-single that plated Bryant Cid.
The Cougars’ best chance to take the lead came an inning later.
Two straight walks to Robert Driscal and Patrick Valdez set up a potentially lucrative frame. CHS, though, did not use the base on balls gifts to it advantage.
After MVC starter Andy Muller delivered eight consecutive balls, he retired Brennan Wilson on one pitch for the first out. A Brandon Pickens’ sacrifice bunt advanced the runners to second and third for Cid, who had singled up the middle in his last at-bat.
Muller, who tossed a complete game, ended the threat by inducing a ground ball for the third out.
“We battled tough all the way through, we just didn’t get clutch hitting when we needed it,” Dequin said. “It’s something that we have to clean up and focus on.”
The Mustangs (23-4 overall, 16-2 MBL) tacked on two key runs in the bottom of the six, to increase the cushion to 4-1 entering the seventh.
Muller surrendered a two-out double to Brennan Wilson but Pickens grounded out one batter later to end the game.
The Cougars’ four league losses (two each to Monterey and MVC) were by a combined seven runs, including a pair of one-run set backs, one of which ended after a Nick Cordova deep drive to left field bounced off the top of the fence and back into the field of play.
The near-game-winning home run wasn’t to be, as the Mustangs threw out a pinch runner (the tying run) at home on the play to seal a 3-2 win on April 25.
GILROY HIGH TRACK AND FIELD
For the third time in as many races, Gilroy High senior sprinter Jourdan Soares rewrote his own school record in the 200-meter dash. Soares’ latest record-breaker came Friday at the Tri-County Athletic League finals at Garcia-Elder Sports Complex. He set a TCAL Finals meet-record in the 200 with a 21.64 second burner (also a school record) to claim the league title. He earlier won gold in the 100 (10.87) to advance in both events to Saturday’s CCS Trials back at Gilroy High.
Soares, the defending CCS 100-meter champion, will be joined by senior Chelsey Kalata, senior Sarina Sandoval, junior Samantha Una Dia and senior Luis Magana at Saturday’s sectional semifinals.
Kalata placed second in both of her races the 100 (12.72) and the 200 (26.21) last Friday. Both times were personal bests. Una Dia grabbed second in both the 100 hurdles (15.64) and 300 hurdles (49.08), while Magana punched his ticket to CCS in the pole vault, placing second, Sandoval’s 38 -foot, 08.75 inch throw in the shot put earned her second in the TCAL and a spot at CCS.
Other varsity Mustangs to post personal-best times on the track Friday: Allita Watkins (800 – 64.45 seconds); Noemi Rivera (3200 – 13:12.36); Enrique Villanueva (800 – 2:03.32 and 3200 – 10:46.12);
Palma won the boys’ title with 152 points, outracing defending champion San Benito (133.) No other boys team eclipsed the 100-point mark. On the girls’ side, San Benito topped second-place Salinas 169-101 for the league championship.
CCS field events start at 9:30 a.m. and track events at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
• Junior varsity league champions: Courtney Pipkin (triple jump); Jazmine Villanueva (shot put)
Members of the Gilroy High swimming team hit the pool against the Central Coast Section’s best in the championship semifinals Friday at the Santa Clara International Swim Center.
The goal – a top-eight finish to advance to Saturday’s final heat. If not that, than a top-16 to get into the consolation finals.
Anna Brolin, who had qualified for two individual events during the regular season, touched the wall with at 1 minute, 8.94 seconds in the breaststroke – a season best – but not quite fast enough to slip into the top-16, missing that by half a second. In the 100 butterfly, however, the sophomore placed 16th with a 59.17 and swam in the consolation finals Saturday. Brolin took eighth in said consolation final. Both times are also school records.
The 200-yard medley relay team – Kim Davis, Brolin, Michelle Shields and Christina Collett – missed the consolation finals race by 11-hundredths of a second.
The same foursome also swam the 400-freestyle relay. Although they hit a season-best time (3:50.77 seconds), a Saturday spot in the finals eluded the squad.
The team recorded a season-best mark for the second week in a row in the event. The four girls won a league title May 4.
Kim Davis swam a 1:05.03 in the 100 backstroke. Shields swam a 25.84 in the 50 free and a 56.43 in the 100. Both times did not make the cut.
Michael Shields shaved a bit of time off of his CCS seed mark with a 22.43 in the 50 free.
He did the same in the 100 free, posting a 49.06 – nearly one second faster than his seed time. Shields now owns the GHS record in that swim. However, Shields did not qualify for Saturday in either event.